Mental Health and Wellbeing

AOD Research Network (opens in a new window)

The AOD Research Network comprises Western researchers with a range of disciplinary backgrounds including psychology, social work, criminology and public health. The network aims to foster high quality research on critical substance use issues facing communities within South Western and Western Sydney.

Eating Disorders and Body Image (EDBI) (opens in a new window)

EDBI comprises researchers at Western with an active interest in eating disorders and body image. We come from varied disciplines and professional backgrounds including medicine, psychology, nursing, exercise science.


Current Research

Mental health literacy in a resettled refugee community in New South Wales: Paving the way for mental health promotion in vulnerable communities

  • Researchers: Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan, Dr Jonathan Mond,  Dr Mitchell Smith, Ms Diana Milosevic, Professor Anthony Francis Jorm
  • Funding: University of Western Sydney & South Western Sydney Local Health District

Resettled refugees are a particularly vulnerable group.  They have very high levels of mental health problems, in particular, trauma-related disorders, but very low uptake of mental health care.  Evidence suggests that poor "mental health literacy", namely, poor knowledge and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems is a major factor in low or inappropriate treatment seeking among individuals with mental health problems.  Hence, efforts are needed to identify specific aspects of mental health literacy likely to be problematic in different demographic subgroups and to use this information to develop health promotion programs.

View final project report PDF, 939 KB (opens in a new window)

Mental Health First Aid for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression: The Development of First Aid Guidelines for Frontline Community Workers Assisting Resettled Refugees

  • Researchers: Ms Maria Gabriela Uribe Guajardo, Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan, Professor Anthony Francis Jorm
  • Funding: PhD study and Cross Cultural Public Health Research Award

This study aims to develop culturally appropriate evidence-based actions to assist individuals from a refugee background.  By building on the highly successful standard MHFA training, these guidelines will inform tailored education on how to help an Iraqi refugee presenting with common mental health problems such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder among others. Future directions will include the delivery and evaluation of this tailored educational program, currently being undertaken.

View guidelines PDF, 1008.19 KB (opens in a new window)

Mental Health Literacy of Resettled Afghan Refugee Communities in Australia: An Exploration of How Resettled Refugees Understand Trauma Related Mental Health Disorders and Treatment Practices

  • Researchers: Ms Anisa Yaser , Shameran Slewa-Younan , Caroline A Smith , Rebecca E. Olson, Jonathan Mond

Resettled refugees are a particularly vulnerable group given the high prevalence of exposure to traumatic events and the known links between such exposure and mental health impairment.  It is particularly concerning that despite the very high levels of mental health problems, in particular, trauma-related disorders, there is very low uptake of mental health care.  Evidence suggests that poor "mental health literacy", namely, poor knowledge and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems is a major factor in low or inappropriate treatment seeking among individuals with mental health problems.  Currently, one of the largest groups of refugees being resettled in Australia are those who originate from Afghanistan. This study seeks to examine the "mental healthy literacy" of resettled Afghan refugees in Adelaide, South Australia using a mixed methods design. It is proposed that information collected in this thesis will be used to develop culturally appropriate and responsive health promotion programs.

Assessing Mental Health Literacy in undergraduate health professional students at entry level in the UAE

  • Researchers: Dr Rachel Rossiter, Dr Nabeel Al Yateem, Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan
  • Funding: Al Jalila Foundation

Health literacy has been shown to influence recognition of and appropriate treatment-seeking behaviors. As health professionals play a vital role in developing the health literacy of community members and supporting early intervention programs, it is vital that they themselves have a high level of health literacy. Mental health literacy has received much less attention than literacy regarding physical health issues. Low levels of mental health literacy have been identified in many countries and this has been identified as an area requiring focused attention. In contrast, increased level of stress and at times distress have been reported in students undertaking tertiary studies. Providing interventions to enhance student resilience has been described as key to universities meeting their role in supporting student well being. This project will measure psychological distress and to describe mental health literacy amongst students at entry level to undergraduate studies as health professionals in the UAE. Findings will be used to inform future initiatives to support student well being and to inform development of courses and curricula that will improve mental health literacy. The overall aim is to prepare competent health professionals who are able to identify, screen and handle different mental health problems within the UAE.

Walk the talk: A study of an online population-based intervention to improve the mental health of young people who are unemployed.

  • Researchers: Vanessa Rose, Janette Perz
  • Funding: Australian Rotary Health Grant

This study aims to investigate the effectiveness of an online self-directed vocationally-oriented cognitive behavioural program ('Walk the Talk') in improving the mental health of young people who are unemployed. The online program features dramatised video of cognitive self-talk, coping with unemployment, job-searching, attending interviews and maintaining employment once in the workforce; online quizzes comprising multiple choice items to self-test understanding of content material; and downloadable diary sheets, activities, website links and tips. Participants will be aged between 17-25 years and currently looking for full-time employment. Results will assist with interpreting intervention integrity and will be used to make any required modifications to the program before a planned large population scale intervention trial.

You are invited to participate. Find out more (opens in a new window)

Case-control studies of suicide and attempted suicide in young adults in New South Wales

  • Researchers: Richard Taylor, Greg Carter, Michael Dudley, Jo Duflou, Stephen Morrell, Coletta Hobbs, Allison Milner, Andrew Page
  • Funding: NH&MRC; Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing

This study aimed to delineate and quantify social and psychiatric risk factors and population characteristics of both suicide and attempted suicide in young people age 18-34 years from metropolitan and rural areas in NSW. This study has led to a series of ongoing studies of impacts of changes in employment status and social connectedness on suicidal behaviour in young adults.

Socio-economic status and eating disorders in the Australian population

  • Researchers: Brittany Mulders-Jones, Deborah Mitchison, Phillipa Hay, Federico Girosi

Recent research has called the stereotype that eating disorders are largely limited to young, White, upper-class females into question. Existing research has failed to conclusively determine the association between socioeconomic status and disordered eating. This study investigates the association between indicators of socioeconomic status and eating disorder features. Data were merged from cross-sectional general population surveys of adults in South Australia in 2008 (n = 3034) and 2009 (n = 3007). We use multivariable logistic regression to assess associations between sociodemographic indicators of disadvantage (household income, educational level, employment status, indigenous status and geographical location) and current eating disorder features (objective binge eating, subjective binge eating, purging, strict dieting and overvaluation of weight/shape).